I'm an anarchist because I believe that every human being has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm an anarchist because I believe that every human being belongs to himself, and belongs to others only by choice. I'm an anarchist because I believe that violence is allowable only in defense of life, liberty, or property. I'm an anarchist because I believe that the only legitimate government is by the consent of the governed. My political philosophy is probably stated best by this section of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
But you might wonder why, being an anarchist, I would use the words "legitimate government" and refer to a piece of the Declaration that mentions "government." Isn't anarchism the opposite, or the absence of government?
Well, yes and no. Anarchism is the absence of government as we know it, or government by a ruling class that claims the exclusive right to use aggressive force to achieve its ends, and claims the right to control everything and everybody within its "jurisdiction."
But the term "government" can also be used to describe a set of rules and methods of enforcement that regulate some types of social relationships and are agreed upon by everyone to whom they apply. A government instituted by mutual consent to protect everyone's rights is not a government-as-we-know-it; it is, in fact, well organized anarchy.
If your first thought is: "but the whole purpose of government and law is to force people to do things they don't want to do and not do things they want to do," then you have hit the nail right on the head. That is exactly the purpose of government-as-we-know-it, and it is by its very nature nonconsensual.
I reject the common belief that social order, peace, cooperation, organization, and beneficial collective actions are impossible without a ruling class specially endowed with the right to use aggressive violence. In fact, I believe that all these good things are much easier to achieve when aggressive violence is consistently shunned by everyone as a matter of principle.
I am not a starry-eyed utopian, either. I am an anarchist because I see both strength and weakness in human beings. Our strength is our intelligence, ingenuity, compassion, and ability to work together to achieve common goals. Our weakness is our desire to dominate others and promote ourselves at their expense. Given our nature, I believe it's very dangerous to give one group of humans permission to use aggressive force to control another group of humans: This permission is like the Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings, of which Gandalf says:
I would take this ring with the intention of doing good, but through me it would wield a power too terrible to imagine.
Thousands of years of human history is testament to the truth of this, and we have but recently left the bloodiest century in the long, bloody, cruel history of mankind. Despite this, I dare to believe that humans, at heart, are becoming more humane. The horrors of the 20th century were not due to the degeneration of human nature, but to the addition of advanced technologies to the ancient arts of slaughter and domination.
I am an anarchist because I love my fellow man. And how does one express love toward six billion human beings? I cannot hug them all. I cannot feed them all. I can affect only a small fraction of humanity in a positive way. But for everyone else on the planet, the best thing I can do is to respect them and leave them in peace. I can simply refrain from demanding and advocating the enslavement, imprisonment, or death of others for my benefit. I can personally grant everyone their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without any interference from me.
That's why I'm an anarchist.